This is a strange, strange book and will not be to everybody's taste.
It's easy to give an outline of the book - but not so easy to convey its atmosphere
Richard Carter is grieving the loss of his wife, Abby, in a fire. Desperate - over despertate? - to protect his daughter, Serena, he accepts the offer of a job as manager at the Deadfall Hotel. The Deadfall is a weird place. This is not just because of the guests. While we are never told so directly, it's clear that they are a collection of monsters, ghosts, vampires and other, even less definable oddities. The weirdness is also inherent in the location of the hotel, one of a hundred or so places on earth where, we are told, strangeness gathers. Richard settles at the hotel, living through a number of adventures (an invasion by evil cats; the visit of a fundamentalist sect whose leader has a strange family problem) before coming to a point of crisis which challenges his memories of Abby (her ghost, which emerged once he was living at the hotel). Throughout, the narrative alternates between Richard's story, and diary entries by Jacob, his predecessor and mentor, who stays on to show him the ropes.
It's impossible, on the other hands, to convey the sheer strangeness of the whole concept. The hotel is perhaps what would have resulted had Titus Groan decided to turn Gormenghast
into a B&B - mixed with a dash of perplexing Lovecraftian geometry and the dimesions of the Tardis. In many respect the hotel seems to be alive. It becomes ill. It breathes. It dominates the book, and is by far the best realised character.
However, it is never clear what has actually happened, especially in the last few, almost dreamlike pages. What is the meaning of the Pool Room? How did the hotel get ill - was it something to do with Abby's ghost? What does Ms Malachiuk's story mean? This will, I think, frustrate those who prefer a more clearcut story, as may the philosophical speculations in Jacob's diary entries.
Overall, a fascinating, strange tale (you can't use the word "strange" too many times in describing this book) but not one I always found to my taste - I tend to prefer my horror a bot more straightforward. Steve Rasnic Tem has certainly written something intensely ambitious, though whether he has succeeded or not I'm not entirely sure. I think it deserves four stars for the ambition alone: if it was a bit clearer what he was trying to achieve I might have said five.